Israel Grapples with Iran's Growing Military Presence in Syria

( Yaakov Lappin - President Assad's recent victories are setting the stage for the continued spread of Iran and its network of Shi'a proxies in Syria. Tens of thousands of Iranian-backed Shi'a militiamen are currently operating across Syria under Iranian command. Israel is closely monitoring the Syrian arena, on the lookout for a renewed Iranian attempt to set up bases of attack or attempts by Hizbullah to move into southern Syria. In Syria, Iran commands 6,000 Hizbullah fighters, 7,000 Iraqis and 20,000-30,000 Afghan Shi'a combatants, as well as 100,000 Shi'a militiamen in Iraq. The Iranians also built up a pro-Assad militia of local Syrians, called the National Defense Forces, which has tens of thousands of members. Dr. Ely Karmon, a senior research scholar at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya, expressed hope that the U.S. could work with Russia to create Iran-free zones in southern Syria. But Israel cannot rely on America stopping Iran in Syria. "Israel must be ready, if the U.S. won't take steps vis-a-vis the Russians [to curb Iran]," he said. "Israel must see an Iranian presence on its border as a casus belli [justification for war]."

2017-07-12 00:00:00

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